MAY 21

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by Hummer Storm Chaser

Where’s the Weather?

Alliance Nebraska before hail
Alliance Carhenge under clouds
Alliance Nebraska rotating wall cloud

In the 1990’s there was a lot of talk of El Nino and La Nina, weather patterns that upset the normal annual expectations of tornados in the plains. These days the blame is placed on unusually short seasons due to global warming. But to underscore the unpredictability of weather in general, there has been a lack of supercell thunderstorms for the past week in North America, just as all of the best researchers are standing by to watch. And a watched kettle never boils.

Today the scientists showed just how adept they are at finding vicious weather after jumping between two clusters of dense activity 60 miles apart. The final destination had the entire VORTEX2 operation sampling data on a rotating supercell that began in far western Nebraska where the temperature was 89 degrees. A roaring outflow from this storm produced wind that was likely 60 mph or more and drove blinding rain across the sparse highways and blocked the sun for two hours.

All of this was recorded on the data loggers and computers of the 40 vehicles involved in monitoring and measuring the entire length of the storm, which will occupy analysts for years to come. In the HUMMER H3T at 65 mph on Highway 87 north of Alliance, Nebraska, the mast-mounted anemometer was facing 45 degrees relative to the direction of travel, which was southwest, as the fierce westerly gusts blinded normal traffic. In less than an hour, the temperature fell to 54 degrees, a 35-degree plunge as the cold front pushed the convective line east. The massive clash of energy produced bulging clouds and lightning, and moved the researchers closer to finding out how rotation can emerge from what was otherwise a non-descript baby storm.

At the end of the day, billowing and dense clouds were lit by the setting sun, as the notable roadside attraction of “Carhenge” outside of Alliance cast alternating shadows and faded into the night.

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